Chinese Emigration and Immigration

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

California[edit | edit source]

Hawaii[edit | edit source]

New York[edit | edit source]

North Dakota and Washington[edit | edit source]

Oregon[edit | edit source]

Pennsylvania[edit | edit source]

Canada[edit | edit source]

United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
  • Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[1]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

Finding the Town of Origin in China[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in China, see China Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

China Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Chinese Americans[edit | edit source]

  • The 1849 California Gold Rushdrew the first significant number of laborers from China who mined for gold and performed menial labor.
  • There were 25,000 immigrants by 1852, and 105,465 by 1880, most of whom lived on the West Coast.
  • Chinese workers came in order to send money back to China to support their families there. At the same time, they also had to repay loans to the Chinese merchants who paid their passage to North America.
  • Nearly all of the early immigrants were young males from six districts in Guangdong Province. The Guangdong province experienced extreme floods, famine, mass political unrest in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • These Chinese immigrants were predominantly men. By 1900 only 4,522 of the 89,837 Chinese migrants that lived in the U.S. were women. The lack of women migrants was largely due to the passage of U.S. anti-immigration laws.
  • Upon arrival to the U.S. Chinese men and women were separated from each other as they awaited hearings on their immigration status, which often took weeks. Ninety percent of the Chinese women who immigrated to the US between 1898 and 1908 did so to join their husband or father who already resided in the U.S.
  • In the 1850s, Chinese immigrants were particularly instrumental in building railroads in the U.S. west. The Central Pacific Railroad recruited large labor gangs, many on five-year contracts, to build its portion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
  • As Chinese laborers grew successful in the United States, a number of them became entrepreneurs in their own right.
  • The Chinese population rose from 2,716 in 1851 to 63,000 by 1871. In the decade 1861–70, 64,301 were recorded as arriving, followed by 123,201 in 1871–80 and 61,711 in 1881–1890.
  • 77% were located in California, with the rest scattered across the West, the South, and New England.
  • As the numbers of Chinese laborers increased, so did the strength of anti-Chinese attitude among other workers in the U.S. economy. This finally resulted in legislation that aimed to limit future immigration through the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • From the 1850s through the 1870s, the California state government passed a series of measures aimed at Chinese residents, ranging from requiring special licenses for Chinese businesses or workers to preventing naturalization.
  • In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers (skilled or unskilled) and renewed the Act in 1892, 1902, and then indefinitely. The Chinese Exclusion Acts were not repealed until 1943.
  • The states with the largest estimated Chinese American populations, according to both the 2010 Census, were California (1,253,100; 3.4%), New York (577,000; 3.0%), Texas (157,000; 0.6%), New Jersey (134,500; 1.5%), Massachusetts (123,000; 1.9%), Illinois (104,200; 0.8%), Washington (94,200; 1.4%), Pennsylvania (85,000; 0.7%), Maryland (69,400; 1.2%), Virginia (59,800; 0.7%), and Ohio (51,033; 0.5%). The state of Hawaii has the highest concentration of Chinese Americans at 4.0%, or 55,000 people. [2]

Emigration from China[edit | edit source]

  • Chinese in the Chinese diaspora number over 50 million worldwide, with other estimates range up to 100 million total of Chinese descent.
  • The largest (at least 1 million ethnic Chinese each) overseas communities are in Asia: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar (in descending order of ethnic Chinese population size) have .
  • Three countries outside Asia, have populations over 1 million in size:
  • The United States (esp. States of California, Hawaii, New York and Washington State),
  • Canada (esp. urban areas of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver)
  • Australia (esp. cities of Sydney, Melbourne)
  • Other sizable communities (over 100,000) may be found in Japan, Cambodia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.[3]

Records of Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to immigration records for major destination countries below.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS,, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. "Chinese Americans," in Wikipedia,, acessed 2 June 2021.
  3. "List of diasporas", in Wikipedia,, accessed 3 July 2021.